ESTES PARK, Colo. (CBS4) — Sure they’re much larger than you, and walk around like they own the town, but Estes Park is not a petting zoo. So, please, for your own safety, and those around you, do not pet the elk.
Video of a woman petting a wild bull elk in Estes Park is stirring anger among the town natives, and Coloradans. Video posted on Facebook by Jim Melton showed a woman approaching the elk with her hand extends outside the The Country Market of Estes Park.
After grazing its snout, she is seen reaching to pet the elk’s head between the eyes. The bull quickly adjusts its head, causing the woman to run in to the entrance to the store.
The video caused controversy, with many noting the woman’s actions could’ve landed her in the hospital, and ended with the elk’s possible death.
“Not the smartest thing in the world,” said Dan Thomas, a native of Estes Park. “It is known (getting too close to an elk) is somewhat dangerous. “I think it is crazy that she is on the front side of that elk.”
“You know, I think that is kind of illegal, and kind of stupid.” one resident told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
Hazing wildlife in Estes Park, and especially in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, is against the law. Hazing is defined as any action that would cause the animal to stop its natural actions to react to humans.
“I think a lot of people think the elk aren’t as dangerous,” Dan Thomas said. “At any point he could take a step forward and whip up those antlers, and she would be in some serious trouble.”
Human encounters with elk are not uncommon in Estes Park. Many visit the area simply to experience the high frequency of wildlife sightings.
“When you are in a populated area like this you are going to have that blend of wildlife and people,” Dan Thomas said.
“If you value your life, do not start petting wild animals. You do not know what they are going to do. Stay at a decent distance. Watch them, enjoy them, respect them and keep your distance,” one woman said.